Kalbarri – before the storm

A vacation to Anchorage sounds great. The largest city in Alaska with snow, glaciers, Northern Lights…

A vacation to Anchorage Caravan Park in Kalbarri sounds, umm …ok too. It’s April 2021 and we still cannot travel overseas, so Kalbarri it is.

Day 1 – 8 hours in the car

Kalbarri is a tourist town in mid-west Western Australia 600km north of Perth, renowned for its stunning scenery, fishing and general holiday activities. Its a long road trip of around 8 hours after stopping for lunch and stretching breaks. I have been to Kalbarri many times, but my last trip was some 25 years ago. This trip was a first for Jane, and our travelling buddies Alex, Mary Ann and 5yo Marcus.

About 70km before reaching Kalbarri, we passed Hutt Lagoon. This is a large lake famous for its pink colour. We made a quick stop to check it out. Alex and Mary Ann wanted to see it also, so we planned to come back the next day (with the drone).

We stayed at Anchorage caravan park, right in the middle of town. Alex and Mary Ann had their caravan, while Jane and I roughed it in a tent. The caravan park was jam packed. It was starkly contrasting from the grassy spaciousness of Denmark’s Big 4 park we stayed in February. Nevertheless, that’s camping for you (don’t get me started).

Close to the bins

Alex and Mary Ann arrived shortly after us and we went about setting up our respective camps.

We had a BBQ dinner and a few drinks and retired early to bed after a tiring day of driving.

Day 2 – Coastal

After a lazy rise and slow breakfast of coffee, bacon and eggs we took off in Alex’s jeep to explore Kalbarri’s coastal landforms.

Firstly we travelled the 70km back down the road to the pinkish Hutt Lagoon. We tried to find a road into the lagoon as we both recalled seeing photos where cars were on a road crossing the lake. We couldn’t find such a road so we went to the lookout near Port Gregory with all the other tourists. The lake wasn’t all pink, but there was enough pink salty water to get some interesting shots wit the camera and drone.

The next stop was the Natural Bridge and Island Rock lookouts. Something that has changed in the past 25 years since I last visited was the signage, roads and tracks improvements. The lookouts were easy to find and nice to walk along the paved trails.

The sandstone cliffs were spectacular.

Natural Bridge

Net stop was Pot Alley. A coastal gorge with a quaint little beach. Alex got his drone out here.

Marcus and the girls were getting hungry so we went back into town to grab a pizza or two at Angie’s. The pizzas were great, but the highlight for Alex were the vanilla slices. Marcus got his vanilla milkshake as promised too.

We had a short rest until our cruise up the Murchison River on Kalbarri Wilderness Cruises. This was a two hour cruise on a small flat bottom boat up the river. The skipper, Grant was very entertaining and has all sorts of information on the river and the region. We saw lots of kangaroos and birdlife, including a white eagle. Grant didn’t tell us what type of an eagle, but I believe it was a White-bellied Sea Eagle. The funniest part of trip was Castle Rock. The boat made a stop on the sandy beach and Grant pointed out a rock formation high on the banks of the river. He said people like to climb it. As he opened the gangplank all the kids immediately run up the hill to climb the rock… including Marcus. This took Mary Ann by surprise and she and Alex raced after him. Jane and I just looked on thankful we didn’t have kids. Before you knew it they were all up on top of the rock. Mary Ann came back red-faced from the strenuous workout. The boat returned to the town in time for a spectacular sunset. We all enjoyed the cruise.

Back at camp we had a BBQ dinner and drinks before bed.

Day 3 – Inland

Bacon and eggs again at “casa Pecoraro” for breakfast before heading out to explore the rugged inland features of the Kalbarri National Park. Entering the park there is a checkpoint where you must part with $15 per car for the national park fee.

First stop was the Z bend. This is a lookout over a step gorge snaking around in the shape of a giant Z. The round trip for the lookout is 1.2 km. For the more adventurous there is a trail down to the river at 2.6 km with a steeper grade. Being a hot day and having a 5yo meant we just enjoyed the lookout (phew!).

A small part of the Z

Next stop was the newly constructed Skywalk. This structure takes you out over the edge of the cliffs. Its not as scary as it looks, however. Alex and I got our drones out here. There is a nice little café here. so I had to get an ice coffee.

Nature’s Window can be (just) seen in the background. That’s out next stop

The next stop is Nature’s Window, which is perhaps one of the most photographed landscapes in Western Australia. Everyone was eager to see it. It’s only a 800m round trip from the carpark, but on a hot day with “friendly” flies it was a tough journey.

I think all agreed Nature’s Window was the highlight of the trip. We were lucky with the weather, albeit quite hot and we all arrived back at the car park tired and sweaty.

Back at camp we had a refreshing shower and got ready for dinner at Dirt, Dust N Diesels restaurant. Mary Ann had done her research and recommended this place. It promised a lot with a unique Australian menu including Kangaroo, Emu, Crocodile, Buffalo and Camel. Sadly, it didn’t deliver. I was looking forward to trying something different, but they only Australian food they had available that night was the Kangaroo, which I have had many times before. Jane and settled for Fish and Chips (boring) and (tasteless) Garlic Prawns. Alex had a Parmi – which he said was dry. Mary Ann ordered a Beef and Guinness Pie which was too salty. Marcus seemed to be the only winner with his kids size Spaghetti Bolognaise.

We left quite early and disappointed. Alex wanted to try his hand at fishing. He was inspired by our camping neighbours “4 Macs Makin Tracks“. This young family of four from Gold Coast have been on the road since November travelling around Australia. Joel walked into camp Thursday night with a huge Mulloway he caught in the river just near the caravan park. Alex did catch a fish, but it wasn’t a Mulloway. The rest of us enjoyed the balmy night with some wine and cheese on the jetty.

Day 4 – Chased out

During dinner the previous night Jane received a call from the caravan park. They were evacuating tourists from the town because of the incoming cyclone “Seroja“. We were asked to leave before 10am on Saturday. This was fine by us because we were planning to leave Saturday anyway. Alex and Mary Ann however wanted to stay until Sunday. Many people had already left the caravan park on Friday.

We were up early and packed quickly and we were on the road my 7.30. The traffic wasn’t too bad and we made it home at 2.15pm. It was a very nice few days in Kalbarri with good friends. The stunning scenery of Kalbarri is well worth the 600km drive. You probably need a full week there to get the most from it.

The Storm

In the subsequent days Cyclone Seroja wreaked havoc in Kalbarri with 70% of houses being damaged in some way. Luckily there appears to be no loss of life reported to date. Cyclones this far south in WA are very rare and towns in this region like Kalbarri are not equipped for such events.

Denmark, here we come, …the birthplace of Google Maps!

When our good friends Alex and Mary Ann invited us on a trip to Denmark, I thought “great, I’ve never been to Scandinavia, the home of Google Maps, Lego and salty liquorice”. When Mary Ann sent me the details, I realised to my horror it was camping in the Western Australia’s south-west town of Denmark.

There’s a pattern developing here.

The Labour day long weekend in Western Australia is the first week of March, not in May like every other place in the world. We took the Friday off to make it an extra long weekend. We set off on Friday morning for the five hour drive to the lovely little town of Denmark. Denmark is situated on the south coast of Western Australia 420km south east of Perth. Its relatively straight drive down Albany Highway turn west at Mt Barker. We’re travelling with two other couples, Alex and Mary Ann and Steve and Annabelle. Alex and Mary Ann’s cheeky 5 year old, Marcus is with us too of course. We stayed at the Big 4 Caravan park in Ocean Beach, which is about 10 minutes outside the main town. Alex and Mary Ann are seasoned campers and have a caravan with all the gear. Steve and Annabelle had a small tent similar to ours. When I say “ours” I mean the tent we borrowed from Alex and Mary Ann.

We arrived first, soon after by Steve and Annabelle and later Alex, Mary Ann and Marcus.

Once we were all set up we congregated at the Pecoraro estate for drinks, nibbles. This flowed on to dinner and we finished the night with Whiskies.

Saturday night we awoke late and a little hungover. After a wake up coffee and bacon and eggs, we set out eager to explore the south coast. First stop was the Valley of the Giants, in particular the Tree Top Walk. The Tree Top Walk is a walking structure that takes you up 40m to view the magnificent Tingle Forest. I had been there before, but this was a first for many in our group. The Red and Yellow Tingle trees are endemic to this region and are impressive in their height, girth and the gnarly shapes of their trunks. After the tree top walk there’s a ground level walk called the Ancient Empire Walk where you can walk through the burnt out trunks of the “giants”.

After leaving the Valley of the Giants we stopped for lunch at the Demark Good Food Factory. The place boasted the best burgers in Australia – which actually wasn’t far from the truth. We all agreed the burgers where first class. Jane and I had their cider tasting paddle. They were quite good, with the highlight being their Jalapeno Cider. They also had a soccer-golf course that looked quite interesting – no time for that though because Steve already had his map out.

Where to next, captain?

The decision of where to go next was an easy choice, as we were all hanging to go to Elephant Rocks and Greens Pool at William Bay. In my opinion these are two of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Huge granite boulders poke out of white sandy beaches and the pristine clear water of the Southern Ocean. It would be perfect if it weren’t for the other tourists being there too. I took my drone and got some stunning shots of the coastline.

We spent a while swimming, taking photos and droning at both beaches.

On our way back to the campsite we visited many of the viewpoints along the south coast, such as Madfish Bay and Waterfall beach. We arrived back at the campsite ready for a shower and something to eat (and drink). Alex got his barbeque out and we ate, drank and talked BS until what felt like the “wee hours” (but more like 9pm). We hit the air mattress ready for tomorrow’s expedition.

Cheers

Sunday after a late breakfast we set out to explore some of the attractions closer to Denmark. First stops were some lookouts around the mouth of the Wilson Inlet. These included Sinker Bay, Black Hole Rock and the Lions lookout. All offering spectacular coastal views.

We then headed up the hill to see the big windmills at Denmark Wind Farm. There’s two giant wind turbines high on the hill. The girls had fun taking photos, while the engineering nerds tried to guess some windmill stats.

We went back into the town itself for lunch. It was actually quite difficult to find somewhere suitable. In the end we got takeaway from various places and sat in the park by the river. Jane and I got pies from the “world famous” Denmark bakery – seems like every town’s bakery is world famous these days. The pies were nice, although Jane’s potato pie was too heavy on the potato.

After lunch we drove up Mt Shadforth. This is the highest point in Denmark and promised good views towards the coast. The drive up the mountain was very nice. Tall Karri trees lined the road. The view from the top, however, was a bit of a disappointment. Perhaps we should have been visiting the wineries along the way.

Someone mentioned “chocolate” so we all headed to the Denmark Chocolate Factory. Everyone (except me) ordered expensive hot chocolate which they all enjoyed. I explored the stunning grounds and managed to spot a blue wren. I only had my phone camera and got a blurry photo. (Not worth posting).

The last stop was Monkey Rock. When we got there the signage was non-existent. Jane and I were weary and fearing a long climb we decided to head back to the campsite for a rest (beer). The others pushed on and when they joined us back at the caravan they told us the views were great (of course!).

It was our last night in Denmark so we decided to go out for dinner. Captain Steve did the research and suggested Boston Brewpub. We’d found out during the day our old mate Conrad was also staying in Denmark with his partner Riann. We were yet to met her, so we invited them to join our group from dinner. It was nice to meet Riann and catch up with Conrad. The food at the Boston was great and service very efficient.

Back at the campsite we had a couple more drinks and retired early. Big drive home in the rain tomorrow.

As much as I hate camping, I must admit I had a good time. Big thanks to Alex and Mary Ann for their generosity and organisational (MA) skills. Thanks also to Steve and Annabelle for making a fun group to travel with.

Augusta, here we come, …where’s my golf clubs?

When our good friends Clive and Susan invited us on a trip to Augusta I thought “great, I’d love a few days playing golf at the top-ranked course in Golf Digest‘s 2009 list of America’s 100 greatest courses”. When Clive sent me the details, I realised to my horror it was camping in the Western Australia’s south-west town of Augusta.

–Insert usual thing about Covid-19 and complain about not being able to travel overseas blah blah–

We’re not campers. We don’t have any gear, except for the 2 tin cups Clive gave us for Christmas. Jane was super keen, so we agreed to join them, it was Susan’s 60th birthday celebration after all. Other friends were also coming to give it a party atmosphere.

Augusta is on the very south-west tip of Australia. It’s nestled on the banks of the Blackwood river just before it empties into the junction of the Southern and Indian oceans.

We left Perth Thursday morning for the three and a half hour drive. After stopping for lunch at the Rose Hotel in Bunbury, we arrived around 3pm at Flinders Bay Caravan Park for our four day stay. Clive and Susan were already there and helped us erect our tent. I mentioned before we didn’t have any camping gear, but we borrowed a some items from friends. We did in fact have an air mattress and sleeping bags. Thanks to Mary Ann and Alex for the tent and Annabelle and Steve for the portable fridge. Mary Ann and Alex were to join us on this trip, but cancelled due the ill health of Mary Ann’s sister, Rosie in the Philippines. Sadly, Rosie passed away on Friday.

Susan made a nice stir-fry for dinner in their “camp-kitchen”. After dinner we finished the night with wine, whiskey and cigars.

Friday morning we had breakfast with Clive and Susan. Coffee, bacon and eggs on toast, courtesy of Susan. After breakfast we made our way to the beach, a short walk from the caravan park. The weather was warm, but very windy. That didn’t stop Clive, Susan and Jane going for a swim. It was too cold for me so I took some photos around the rock pools. Unfortunately it was too windy to fly the drone.

After the beach we returned to the caravan park for a shower, then into town for lunch at the Augusta Hotel. Jane and I shared fish and chips, while Clive and Susan had burgers. The view was lovely, overlooking the Blackwood river. The food was nice and the cricket was on TV.

View from the Augusta Hotel

We picked up some supplies from the local IGA and headed back to the caravan park … for a nap.

When we were suitable refreshed we re-joined Clive and Susan to find Janice and her son, James had also arrived. Then a bit later Jenalyn, Sean and their kids arrived. After they were set up, we decided to have an dinner early to secure the BBQ spot overlooking the beach.

We ate and drank to well after dark, until we were all tired. It seemed like a late night, but I think we were all in bed before 10pm.

Saturday was Susan’s 60th Birthday. We got up early for bacon and eggs again. We all went to the beach for a girls birthday photo shoot.

Back at the caravan park, after a shower we congregated at Clive’s campsite for Susan’s birthday lunch. It consisted of French Champagne, chicken, cheeses and meats. Lots of laughs were had and as the champagne, beer and wine flowed the BS became thicker and richer. The celebrations went on until after sunset when we all retired. Tomorrow was the long drive home.

The drive home took longer than usual because part of the freeway was closed due to a bush fire.

Anyway we all got back to our nice beds and showers on Sunday afternoon. Everyone had a good time. It was nice to celebrate Susan’s Birthday in nice surroundings and with great friends. …although golf in Augusta, Georgia, USA would have been spectacular!

Busselton 2020 (not Bali)

Our family had a week booked in Bali in June spanning my 57th birthday. My sons Aidan and Anthony and Aidan’s Fiancee Ena were joining Jane and the girls and I for the usual Bali favourites: relaxing, eating and drinking.

Again, ruined by Covid-19! [Insert frowny/angry/frustrated face emoji]

We decided to re-imagine the vacation in Busselton. We stayed at our usual haunt Busselton Beach Resort.

Aidan, Ena and Anthony arrived Friday night, while Jane, the girls and I arrived lunchtime Saturday. Aidan had been talking up Rocky Ridge Brewing Co at Busselton, so we went there for a (liquid) lunch. Their thing is tasting paddles, because they have abut 26 beers to choose from. Between the six of us I think we have then all covered.

Rocky Ridge selection

They had a big variety. Aidan got a couple of growlers refilled. I left my growler at home much to Aidan’s disgust.

After some basic grocery shopping we headed back the the resort and reacquainted ourselves with the pool and outdoor spa (Jacuzzi). The pool was freezing, but the spa was nice and hot. We had a BBQ for dinner before playing some cards and Jackbox before we crashed around midnight.


Day two (Sunday) started with a traditional Aussie breakfast of bacon, eggs, mushrooms and toast. Aidan and Anthony brought Kayak, so we carried those down to beach after breakfast. I took the drone down and got some nice photos and videos. Its a pity the beach is clogged with seaweed. I know Busselton shire has tried to fix this problem, but I guess the seaweed is here to stay.

We hit the pool again after we returned from the beach.

Aidan wanted to got back to Rocky Ridge, so we went there for lunch. The burgers and wings were very good. We also tried the beers we didn’t try the day before. Later we walked up to the jetty and had another beer at the Goose. We got back the resort for a rest. When we were all ready for dinner we realised most places were already closed (at 7.30!). We drove to the Esplanade Hotel just in time for the kitchen closing. The girls were hinting at MacDonald’s, so we gave in and they got takeaway “McDo” (as they say in the Philippines). We settled in and watched Lachie Neale win the Brownlow medal. Cards and Jackbox were the go after the medal count and we retired to bed exhausted.


Day three (Monday). Ena and Jane promised us a Filipino breakfast, which meant Aidan was up early to go and buy rice. Ena was able to get Beef Tapa, Tocino, Longganisa and hotdogs from her work. There was a mountain of food, but the girls were in heaven and wolfed the lot!

Everyone was keen for a game of golf. Busselton has a nice Par 3 Golf course which is relaxed and casual, perfect for beginners. Aidan and Anthony are experienced golfers and I play occasionally, but the girls had never played before. With seven of us the group it was going to be a long walk. It was actually good fun and everyone enjoyed the experience. I had a good round excepting one hole where I sliced my drive into adjacent houses. I got the “yips” after that and took a 10 for that hole.

A well deserved beer was waiting for us at Beerfarm. Beerfarm is a craft brewer in Metricup which is about a 30 minute drive from Busselton. We got their sample paddles and enjoyed lunch at their restaurant, Burnt Ends. The beers where good, the food was better and the grounds were stunning.

Beerfarm eat and drinks

Back home for a quick rest. Aidan wanted to try his luck with squidding on the jetty. He’s never caught a squid before, so we all got geared up with squid jigs and hit the jetty. Aidan got some luck early and caught a little squid. But sadly that was it for the night. We saw a pod of dolphins and guessed (or used that as an excuse) they chased the squid away.

At sunset I took my new camera down to the smaller jetty to capture some classic Busselton Jetty images.

We had fish and chips (Cod Rocks) for dinner and pretended we caught the fish.

We played cards and Jackbox again until about midnight when we all retired after a long, but immensely enjoyable day.


Day Four (Tuesday) was our wine tour. The bus was picking us up at 9.30. Aidan booked the whole day tour at Cellar d’Or Tours which included four wineries, two breweries and the chocolate factory. Anthony cooked bacon and eggs for breakfast, with some leftover hotdogs and cheese kransky sausage.

Our tour driver Stuart, who we later named “Chewy” was waiting at reception. We had to pick up two other couples from Bunker Bay and Yallingup before we we started the wine quaffing.

First stop was Happs winery. Happs is not your usual wine tasting set up. They had 43 wines set up in a self-service arrangement. Whoa – it was going to be a big day!

The Second winery was Credaro Wines. This name was familiar to Jane as she worked with one the Credaro’s in a previous job – too bad it wasn’t the wine brother!

Lunch was at the Black Brewing Co, which used to hethe Duckstein. Lunch was good with a nice selection of Beers, Wines and Gins. I needed a rest from wine tasting, but Aidan and Anthony tasted them. Aidan got one of his growlers filled there.

Winery number 3 from Bettenays Wine and Nougat. We were all tasting their wines and considering if we should buy a bottle of two. Then they opened the Nougat Liqueur. Everyone just said “wow”. Most of us on the tour bought several bottles of the liqueur – no wine.

A quick trip the Margaret River Chocolate Co before heading to the last winery of the day, Willespie. Willespie was an old fashioned traditional winery with old growth vines. They also still use cork, which is rare these days. “Chewy” replaced the sexy French host, much to the girls disappointment, to run us though how to properly drink a Chardonnay. Apparently it needs to be warmed up somewhat to avoid that extra woody taste. By this stage I had so many wines, my taste buds were just about cooked. It was a fascinating tutorial nonetheless. Well done Chewy, you did a great job.

Last stop was Cheeky Monkey Brewing for a cleansing ale before we returned back to Busselton.

It was a full-on day with lots of wine beer and food. We all loved it.


Day Four (Wednesay) was Aidan and Ena’s last day with us. They were going to stay at Bettenay’s guest hose for a couple days to celebrate their anniversary.

I took my drone down the jetty foreshore and took some aerial photos and videos. I was hoping to see some dolphins and follow them with the drone, but no luck.

We went to Canal Rocks for sunset photos. The ocean was rough but the sunset was nothing to write home about. Dinner at Occy’s in Dunsborough before saying goodbye to Aidan and Ena and home to Busselton. Early to bed as we’re heading home tomorrow.


Day five, we cleaned up and left for home about 11am.

It really was a great holiday. Having Aidan, Ena and Anthony there meant there was lots of fun and laughs. I hope we can do it again next year.

Next trips are:

December 2020 – 2 night stay-cation in Perth for Christmas shopping

January 2021 – 4 Nights Camping in Augusta to celebrate our friend Susan’s 60th birthday.

Guilderton to York

I should point out, firstly, I didn’t actually travel from Guilderton to York.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts Australia’s borders are closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, so we’re taking the time to rediscover Western Australia. We took a long weekend and made short trips to Guilderton, North and York, East.

Guilderton

Guilderton is one hour (100km) North of Perth and is situated at the mouth of the Moore River.

It’s a sleepy tourist town with a caravan park and quite a few holiday homes. It doesn’t really cater for couples with its larger scale accommodation offerings, hence our day trip only. I guess we could camped if we really wanted to stay. It would be nice to come back with another family ans spend more time exploring the river and surrounding spots such as Lancelin.

Jane and I shared fish and chips from the General Store. At $11 it was delicious and ample enough for two. We sat on a bench overlooking the river. A couple of ducks waddled up and demanded their share.

The real attraction of the place is the river and beach. A boardwalk around the escarpment offers spectacular views over the river mouth. Of course the lookout wasn’t high enough for me so I got the drone out.

Further inland another boardwalk traverses the river.

York

On Monday we left early for our day trip to York. York is situated in the “wheatbelt” of Western Australia about 150km east of Perth. Its quite close to Toodyay, where we visited in July. The main reason we wanted to go is that the canola fields are blooming.

There has been some grumblings of the local farmers say that tourists are coming a trampling all their crops. There are some that allow visitors in for a fee. Jane and I preferred to find out own locations. So we found our own location and we ventured inside (umm… yeah trespassed) the fields and immersed ourselves in the yellow fields. We were careful not to harm any plants. Of course the drone came out to fly above the sea of gold.

Video here

Canola is also known as Rape Seed. Edible oil is made from the seed of the plant and is popular around the world for its Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids content and it also helps to cut cholesterol levels.

The best place to see the canola fields in the road between York and Northam, called the Northam-York Road of course. We took some gravel side roads to find a field that was remote and unfenced.

Greece Part 1

The azure water of the Mediterranean sea laps gently against the hull of our yacht. We sip our gin & tonics while our topless partners sun themselves on the deck. Its a beautiful warm day moored just of the coast on the island of Mykonos…

…is what I should be saying right now.

But sadly our Greece trip was ruined, like just about everything this year by Covid-19.

Instead we spent a few days in the South West of Western Australia at Eight Willows Retreat. We’re only allowed to travel within Western Australia until further notice. I guess we shouldn’t complain, at least we’re allowed to travel somewhere, unlike many other parts of the world. We have stayed at Eight Willows before and decided to come back for a 3 day family get away. Bettina didn’t want to give up any work, so it was just Bianca joining Jane and myself.

We booked a 2 bedroom villa right at the back of the property.

Chalet 23
Aerial View of Eight Willows Retreat
In the bush

As you can see I’m now the proud owner of a drone. I bought the Mavic Air 2 drone a few weeks ago and I’ve been dying to use it over come spectacular coast line.

We arrived Thursday afternoon, unpacked and settled in. That evening we headed to Canal Rocks to catch the sunset. We had some rain as we travelled down from Perth, but the evening broke up and the sunset was nice.

Sunset over Canal Rocks, Yallingup
The “Canal”
I was “too busy” to take photos of the girls

After the sun went down we headed into Dunsborough to have dinner at Clancy’s Fish Pub. Jane and I shared the seafood platter. Even though it said “for one”, it was ample for two of us. Even Bianca had some. I tried one of the local beers – Asam Boi Gose from Beerfarm. Its an unusually delicious sweet and sour Asian style beer.

We got back the unit for night cap and a spa bath for two.

What are you looking at!

We woke up lazily on Friday morning and after some bacon and eggs we headed to Injidup Bay for more flying around. It was a beautiful sunny day. I hadn’t been to Injidup before. It is renowned for its “Natural Spa” formation, where the waves come crashing over the rocks and empty like a waterfall into a rock pool.

We drove back to Margaret River and had lunch at the Cheeky Monkey Brewery.

The Chicken Wings were fantastic. The garden setting was very nice too.

Cheeky Monkeys

We stopped in at the Churchview winery to sample some of their offering on the way back back to the retreat. They had a nice (cheap) Shiraz and an interesting Zinfandel.

After a short rest we made our back to Margaret river for dinner at La Scarpetta Trattoria. This Italian restaurant is a local favourite and we had to wait over an hour for a table. We walked up the Settler’s Tavern for a drink while we waited. The food at La Scarpetta was delicious. We could see why the were so popular. The staff were efficient and very friendly.

Back to bed after another spa bath. Driving home tomorrow stopping at the Bunbury Farmers Market on the way of course.

Yeah its not Greece…but Western Australia is a pretty fine place to be nonetheless.

Toodyay yay yay

We had big travel plans this year. Three small trips to Bali and a three week extravaganza in Greece and Italy. including one week sailing around the Greek Isles (Cyclades). Enter Mr Covid.

2020 WTAF

With lock-downs easing in (Western) Australia we decided for the rest of the year we’ll travel around our own “back yard”. Well there’s no choice really. But of course we’re blessed to live in such a beautiful place as Western Australia – so quit yer whingin‘.

Day one – get your motor runnin’, head out on the highway…

We’d just bought a new car (2019 Mazda6 for those interested) and we were itching for a long drive. We decided to spend a weekend in the Avon Valley. On the spur of the moment we thought “lets go ballooning”. The have hot-air balloon charters from Northam. But we were too late and the weekend was already booked out. We decided to push on and booked a lovely Airbnb in Toodyay. Toodyay, situated in the heart of the Avon Valley is a small country town 100km east of Perth. Its an easy one and a half hour drive from Perth though the rolling green farmland.

The Studio was a nice little guesthouse in Toodyay booked though Airbnb. It was hosted by a lovely lady, Caroline who lived in the house attached to the Studio.

We arrived around lunchtime and unpacked – we’d seemed to packed enough for our european holiday rather than a sleepy weekender! Into the town for a pub-lunch. We shared a fish and chips at the Freemasons Hotel, one of the two pubs in Toodyay. Lunch was nice – the chef served the single serve of fish and chips on two dishes for us, which was a nice touch. After lunch we went back to the studio for a nap…hey I did say is was a sleepy weekender. We got up hungry again (Jane) and went back into town for dinner at the Spice & Grill. We shared a Prawn Curry. It was nice without being spectacular.

Day Two – what’s open?

Caroline met us on Sunday morning and told us of the history of the place and suggested some attractions in the surrounding towns. We decided to take Caroline’s advice to drive to New Norcia via Bolgart. Caroline suggested a nice cafe in Bolgart called “Trees“. We hadn’t had breakfast, so we were getting pretty peckish. Sadly Trees was closed when we got there. In fact there wasn’t a soul to been seen in the whole town. We pushed on to New Norcia. The drive was a pleasure through the rolling farmland. We were keeping an eye out for a nice spot to take some photos. Turning off the Bindi Bindi-Toodyay road we crossed the Railway. Jane likes railway track photos so we stopped for a photo shoot.

Shiny
Gucci feels

Jane was inspired by Gucci’s latest fashion looks and wanted to try to recreate the look.

When we got to the Great Northern Highway we we aghast to discover the road to New Norcia was closed. The GPS Navigator recalculated the journey to over an hour that took us through Bindoon. At this stage Jane was getting hangry and we decided to stop in Bindoon Bakehaus for a pie.

We travelled back to Toodyay through the Julimar State Forest, another one of Caroline’s suggestions. The new Mazda handled the winding narrow road beautifully. We detoured off the main road down a small track for another photoshoot.

We reached Toodyay and decided to press on through to Northam. Northam is a larger town about 25 km south east. I wanted to see the Silo Art. The Silo Art Trail is a series of painted grain silos throughout the whole of Australia. The silos in Northam were painted by London artist Phlegm and Atlanta native HENSE in April 2015.

In the town itself we stopped for a snack and drink. We found a Dome Cafe with a nice little surprise. It has a modern wine bar attached. We had a couple of cocktails and a side of chips. I had a gin and tonic with green chilli which was delicious. Jane had a couple of drinks including a margarita and passionfruit mimosa.

Cocktails at Dome, who would have thought?

It was getting towards dinner time, so we continued our journey to Grass Valley. A good friend of ours recommended the Grass Valley Tavern so we aimed the Mazda there. Of course the “theme of the day” was honoured and it was closed. Oh well back to Toodyay for dinner at the other pub the Victoria.

We shared a Chicken Burger and wings. It was pretty average. Wearily we made out way back to the studio for an early bedtime.

Day three – home

Monday morning we stayed long enough for Jane’s work (online) meeting. I packed our European trip’s luggage into the Mazda for the 100km trip home.

Although there were some disappointments with the trip, we both appreciated the weekend away. The Avon Valley is a beautiful region and we’ll definitely be back, perhaps we’ll get to the ballooning after all.

Eight Willows Retreat

We were lucky enough to be invited to spend a couple of days at Eight Willows Retreat by its owners and good friends Mike and Dorilyn.

Eight Willows is situated in Wilyabrup in Western Australia. Its about half way between Busselton and Margaret River. I’m lucky to live only three hours drive from this beautiful part of the world.

Jane and I arrived on Sunday afternoon and had the first day to ourselves. Being mates with the owners has its perks and we were treated to the “Residence“, which is the biggest house on the property. It is beautifully appointed with 4 large bedrooms, two bathrooms a massive kitchen, dining and living area.

Sunday afternoon we arrived , unpacked and explored the grounds.

Jordan at reception recommended an Italian place for dinner at Margaret River, so we made our way 24 kms south to La Scarpetta Trattoria. We couldn’t find parking close, so we parked further up the Bussell Highway. As we entered the restaurant, we realised it was actually Pizzica Pizzeria underneath the main La Scarpetta restaurant. We thought why not? we were already here. We ordered a pizza which turned out to be not that great.

We got ice creams on the way back. We opened a bottle of wine and watched TV before we were both dozing off. Country life caught up with us and we retired to bed.

The next morning we slept in (why not? again). We got up about 10 o’clock and decided to visit one of out favourite wineries, Woody Nook for a late breakfast. This was the third time Jane and I had been there. We always bought their Port, Nookie Delight. The breakfast was terrific and before we left we decided to reacquaint ourselves with their wines. We loved the Verdelho and as it was on special for $150/carton, we couldn’t resist – Christmas presents sorted! We also grabbed a few bottles of Nookie Delight.

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Christmas at Woody Nook

We arrived back at Eight Willows just after midday to find Mike and Dorilyn and their kids, Shaun and Stephanie (Fifi) had arrived in their caravan. It seemed strange to learn that the first night of their caravan holiday was spent in a 4 1/2 star resort. They were travelling onto Denmark, Esperance and Kalgoorlie before heading back to Perth for Christmas. Having grown up in Singapore, it will be a great experience for Shaun and Fifi to see some Aussie countryside.

After Mike and Dorilyn settled in we went for a walk up the back of the property to the winery next door, Knotting Hill. We sampled a few (well actually all) of their wines and bought two cartons between us. Jane loved the Muscat, so we bought a bottle for our port barrel. We noticed there was a tour group of Germans(?) and Americans there. We left at the same time, us on foot and them in a bus. Next stop was the Grove Distillery. It was just across the road.

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Sampling the wares of Notting Hill

When we arrived the tour bus was right behind us – we almost beat them on foot (and half sloshed). The Grove is not so typical on the area, as it specialises in spirits, such as Gin, Whisky and Rum. As we we were a little pooped from our walk we ordered Gin and Tonics all round. It was very refreshing. Mike and I followed up with some straight Rums. Mike had the Dark Rum, while I had the Spiced Rum.

We walked back through the bush to the resort.

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Bushies

We arrived at the function room and had a few drinks by the lake, while Mike talked to the staff. Shaun had his drone whizzing around. I was quite interested because I’m going to get one when we go sailing the Greek Islands next August. I looked so cool, I’m already drooling.

Back at the Residence, we had a barbecue for dinner (with a few wines of course). Mike cooked up a mountain of steaks and lamb chops. We filled our bellies and swapped BS stories about the afterlife. We went to bed relatively early as we both had long drives in the morning.

Up early for bacon and farm fresh eggs – and packing. We were both ready to leave at 8 am. Jane and I back to Perth. Mike, Dorilyn and the kids to Denmark (WA not Europe).

We can’t thank Mike and Dorilyn enough for the opportunity to stay at Eight Willows. Their generosity is so expansive. We’re indeed very lucky to call them our friends.

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Our hosts Mike and Dorilyn

Bali – Bogans to Celebrities in six days

Yep Bali again.

This time it was a trip of contrasts. The first three days we did it Bogan style in Legian. The last three days we traded the Bintang singlets for collared shirts in Nusa Dua.

Part 1 – Legian

We arrived late on Friday night, picked up as usual by Made and deposited at the Sun Island Hotel. We had stayed at the Sun Island before. It’s in a great location, cheap, clean and well appointed. This time Bettina and Bianca joined Jane and I. We had two rooms on the same level – upgraded to Deluxe! At $47 per room per night – its great value.

We did the normal Aussie Bogan things.

  • Chilled at the pool (sneakily using our own Rum to mix with the coke we bought at the pool bar)
  • Shop for cheap clothes (Bintang singlets for me)
  • Massages and foot scrubs
  • Looked at (every single) handbags on Legian Rd.
  • Eat and drink (repeat)
  • Staying up to 1 am singing Karaoke with new “Indo-friends” (Bettina and Bianca only)

 

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Row 1 – First Class AirAsia style

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Bogan’s diet

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Sun Island Hotel has a pretty good pool

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Sunset at the pool

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Foot treatments

 

Part 2 – Nusa Dua

After three days, we were sick of the bogan life and upgraded ourselves to celebrity status, checking in the the Hilton Bali Resort.

We were meeting our friends Clive and Susan. Clive, now retired, worked many years in the hotel business and had stayed at the Hilton before. His son got married there. He recommended it, so we joined them.

Made picked us up from the Sun Island drove us to The Hilton at Nusa Dua. Entering the hotel lobby we were all awestruck by the stunning view over the ocean. As we were checking in again we were mesmerised by the view behind the receptionists.

Our rooms were on the same floor as the reception. Level 6 on our wing – Level 15 on the cliff tower wing – it was confusing at first, but we soon understood it. Either way we were high up and had spectacular views. The room was huge and beautiful. The bed was the biggest I’d ever seen.

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Room 2609

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View from our balcony

We had a big balcony with sweeping views over the jungle and ocean. We could see lots of monkeys in the jungle. The hotel advised us to keep our balcony doors closed, because the monkeys were known to “pay a visit”.

We had lunch at the The Shore restaurant. Again this was stunning, right on the beach. It was a hot day, but the breeze coming off the ocean made it perfect.

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Bianca trying to get a job in Hilton Marketing Dept

We then chilled by the pool for the rest of the day then got changed for dinner at the hotel’s Indonesian restaurant Paon Bali. The food was nice, but quite expensive for Balinese food. The setting was beautiful on the lawn, with the sound of the ocean in the background.

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Paon Bali Restaurant

We headed back to the room and waited for Clive to arrive.

He arrived about 10.30 pm without Susan as she was committed to her work and couldn’t make the flight. She would join us the next day. He came to our room with a bottle of Wild Turkey. We also had a couple of cigars and talked BS for a couple of hours before hitting the sack. It was a great way to round out the day.

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Old Boys

Next morning we experienced the Hilton Breakfast. Wow – what a spread!

They had everything – except, to Bettina’s dismay, guava juice, aka “Fancy Pink Juice”. She soon got over it when she seen everything else.

Susan was arriving at 12.30. Jane asked Made to pick her from the airport and also do some shopping on the way. Some drinks and snacks for the kids and a couple more cigars for the bigger kids.

When Susan arrived she joined us at the pool for drinks and the obligatory photo session.

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Under the waterfall

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Happy Hour

We had dinner at the “Grain” restaurant which offered a seafood buffet. At around $50 each plus drinks this was an extravagance in Bali. It was a little disappointing with some of the fish and prawns dry and tough. The sashimi was quite good though. The highlight of the night however was the live band. Just a simple trio, singing the classics. Clive requested an old Tom Jones song. They didn’t know it, but sang Delilah instead. It went down a treat with the whole restaurant singing along…

My my my Delilah
Why why why Delilah…

Bettina and Bianca got involved singing along with the band to “Dancing Queen”.

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Bianca singing along with “Survivor Sandra”

Back at Clive and Susan’s room for a night cap before an early bed. It’s been an exhausting day sitting around doing nothing.

The next day Made took us all back to Legian for the girls to get facials and look at (even more) bags. On the way back we stopped at Mulia resort for lunch. Mulia is even more fancier than the Hilton. Right from the entrance you can feel the opulence. We made our way down towards the beach and found the Soleil Cafe. We all had the “M Burger” and a Bintang. All agreed it was a first class burger.

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Soleil cafe at the Mulia resort

Back at the Hotel in time for Susan to pack. Her whirlwind visit was over.

After she left, Clive met us at the pool for happy hour.  We had a few beers and cocktails and transferred to the Shore restaurant to share a pizza.

We finished the Wild Turkey with more cigars back at our room to top off a wonderful couple of days.

On our final day we had  a late breakfast and went the beach and pool for some more photos. The hotel allowed us a late check-out at 1pm.

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Splish Splosh

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View from the lookout

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15th floor Cliff Tower

Made took us to the airport and we said Goodbye to Bali once again.

We’ll be back May and June 2020.

 

 

 

Lords here we come. Part 5 – Home and wrap up

Saturday morning we said goodbye to England and made our way to London Heathrow for the long trip home to Perth.

Gordon hugged his brother, perhaps for the last time and said his emotional goodbye. It was great to meet Rendel and I very much appreciate the hospitality he and Mandy showed us on this trip. Many thanks to Rendel’s “in-laws” too, especially Nick who drove us from the Airport to Stalbridge and having us for drinks to meet his wife and brother Hugo. Also thank you to Hugh and Colleen who graciously opened their home to us for our Lords adventure in London. We met so many generous and kind “poms” – it (almost) seems a shame that we have to beat them in the Ashes.

We boarded our seven hour flight to Doha trying the “seats in the middle” trick again. Again no luck as the plane was full. We had a five hour stopover in Doha where we used the time to pick up pasalubongs for our loved ones and I wrote some more of my blog.

The Qatar airways A380 to Perth was perhaps the longest and more tiring trip we had and we prayed to the airline gods that we could have the extra space. At last the gods smiled upon us and we had no one sitting beside us for the 11 hour trip. 1 out 4!

11 hours later…

We cruised into Perth about 6.30 pm missing the Fremantle Docker’s last home game for the season. We got a good view of the stadium as we approached the runway.

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Dockers getting beaten by Essendon

 

What a week! Its amazing what we packed into those few days. The Highlight was of course the cricket at Lords. My number one bucket list item fulfilled. Second was seeing the sights of Dorset. This was an unexpected day out for me and I loved the English countryside. The train from Dorset to London, riding the tubes, walking over the Thames and catching up with my old mate Chris were all special moments.

I loved every minute of the trip and can’t wait to get back and explore more of England and the rest of the UK.

Special thanks should go to my great buddy Gordon for travelling with me. Quite a different experience travelling with a friend rather than a partner. We had plenty of laughs and shared some truly memorable moments together. Thanks mate!

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Many many G&Ts shared. Cheers!

Oh yeah Jane got her designer bag from Stalbridge…

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The only Dike and Sons bag in Australia